The four civilian crewmembers of SpaceX's private Inspiration4 mission launching into space today are spending their last few hours on Earth without preflight jitters or fear.
Speaking in a news conference yesterday, all four participants agreed that they were more excited than nervous for their launch on a SpaceX rocket and Dragon spacecraft tonight (Sept. 15). Liftoff is set for 8:02 p.m. EDT (0002 GMT) and you can watch it live here, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning at 3:45 p.m. EDT (1945 GMT).
Tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who funded the mission, said the crew had probably accumulated more risk during the fighter jet flights they had performed as part of the mission preparations than what they would experience during the spaceflight itself.
"We're nice and comfortable as we get strapped in the Falcon," Isaacman said in the briefing. "Elon [Musk] was on the last call and did give us his assurances again that the entire leadership team is solely focused on this mission and is very confident, so that obviously inspires a lot of confidence for us as well."
Isaacman also serves as the commander of the SpaceX flight that will, for the first time, send only non-professional astronauts to orbital space aboard the company's Falcon 9 rocket.
Mission specialist Chris Sembroski, who got the ticket for the flight from his friend who won it in a raffle that both had entered, said that he had nerves, but not about safety. As part of a charity auction the mission is conducting, he has agreed to play a song on the ukulele and sing along.
"No worries, no concerns, maybe a little bit of stage fright a little bit, when you have to sing and play at the same time, though that was self-induced," Sembroski said to laughs from his travel companions during the news conference.
"I'm totally confident in the entire SpaceX team and so thrilled to be part of it. I am very excited that I'll be able to try my hand at playing some music on the ukulele up in space. I do know the acoustics are pretty good in the Dragon so it'll come through."
Sembroski is taking a custom-designed Martin Guitar ukulele that will be subsequently signed by all crewmembers and auctioned after landing. The proceeds will go to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which was also the main benefactor of the ticket raffle.
The hospital is also a professional home of physician assistant and cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux who is also part of the crew. Science communicator and geoscientist Sian Proctor is the fourth member of the team.
The three-day mission, which is expected to lift off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida today, will take the private astronauts beyond the orbit of the International Space Station, some 360 miles (575 kilometers) away from Earth. The tailored Dragon capsule, fitted with a large viewing cupola instead of a standard docking port, is expected to splash down on Saturday (Sept. 18) off the coast of Florida or in the Gulf of Mexico.
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